Sunday, 27 September 2009

Aging Wellness

Did you know you grow new brain cells every day? More on
that further down. Did you know that you could enhance
your brain's capacity to grow those new neurons?

Nobody told me aging wellness was going to be a risky
business. One of the risky parts of aging looks to be the
horde of well meaning professional types gathering on the
horizon and preparing to descend on us Boomers to protect
us from....getting older.

I suppose that sounds a bit hypocritical from someone with
a Master's in counseling education, who has been one of the
well meaning horde who descended on the domestic violence
perpatrator.

However, I want to take care of my aging myself, because I
have learned a few things over the years that really work
for me.

I would love to be involved in a bunch of Boomer
communities though, to exchange ideas, and get inspired by
others my age who are grabbing life to the fullest and
wringing some sweet juice out of it yet.

No young person can understand the experience of a Boomer
or Senior, just like I cannot understand what women go
through when they give birth, simply because I have not
been there, so for a kid to explain to me that I need to do
pre-retirement counseling planning when I cannot retire
until I am about 80 years old is absurd.

Just so you know while I rant, the guys at my YMCA who are
in their upper 80's call me a "kid" at 61.

So maybe I should get back to aging wellness, since I did
start talking about working out.

There are a number of things we Boomers can do to prepare
us for aging wellness, we can exercise, eat well, sleep
well, manage out stress, and continue novel learning
experiences to enhance our brain fitness, our neurogenesis,
and our neuroplasticity, for one thing.

With a healthy physical and mental platform in place, we
can begin to prepare for the work of aging wellness, which
will include things like looking at end of life issues, a
life review, retirement and estate planning, spirituality,
and bereavement as our friends and family pass.

Hopefully, your aging wellness will not include elder
abuse, a growing phenomena in our country.

Brainfitness and Aging Wellness

Ever heard of Michael Merzenich,Ph.D.? He is one of the
world's leading neuroplasticity researchers whose Posit
Science Brain Fitness program was just put to the test in
the IMPACT study, which showed that the Boomer and Senior
brain can learn new tricks, putting to rest that old saw,
"Old Dogs Can't Learn New Tricks."

Brainfit for Life

Nobody knew about neuroplasticity or neurogenesis until
about 10 or 12 years ago, and until just recently was there
any information, to my knowledge about how to enhance those
newly discovered capacities of the human brain so that we
could age with more wellness.

I first came across Merzenich's work about a year ago, in
the book by Norman Doidge, M.D., who interviewed Merzenich
in THE BRAIN THAT CHANGES ITSELF.

Merzinich is our age folks, and has put together quite a
tool, which has some real bearing on how we function in our
senior years.

One of his programs is for senior drivers, which would
allow us to keep our mobility and independence for longer.

So it would appear that we can exert some real control over
our physical and emotional and cognitive well being
throughout the life span.

Simon Evans,Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt,Ph.D. have written a
very interesting e-book, or hard cover if you want that,
called BRAINFIT FOR LIFE which culls the research for
tidbits of information which we can use to keep our brains
fit ourselves.

They describe what they call the pillars of brain fitness,
physical exercise, nutrition which must include omega 3
fatty acid, sleep, stress management, and novel learning
experiences which includes Michael Merzinich's Posit
Science Brain Fitness Program.

The most important pillar of brain fitness for our aging
wellness is physical activity/exercise, and I like the
model that Scott and Angie Tousignant have put together for
couples and if you look about half way down the page that
link takes you to, you will meet and a couple using the
Tousignant model who are in their 80's.

That is good enough for me. So on the days I do not go to
the YMCA I do the Tousignant routine at home for a good
workout.

Evans and Burghardt place quite a bit of emphasis on omega
3 fatty acid for our aging wellness.

The best source for Omega 3 fatty acids is fish, which
means I have to monitor the fish for mercury pollution
unless I want to use a supplement. Stress management is a
key piece of the brain fitness and aging well pie.

The best stress management tool is deep breathing, and when
I say that to my clients, they all nod sagely and go right
back to breathing shallow, so I teach a wonderful stress
management tool called HeartMath which is heart rate
variability biofeedback, which teaches folks to manage the
time between heart beats.

Once the HeartMath process is learned, I can cue the
physiology on demand, on any given heart beat and the
chemistry in my body changes from adrenalin and cortisol to
DHEA, which is the anti-aging hormone.

And the HeartMath process helps me access my higher
perceptual centers in my brain.

Evans and Burghardt also talk about the dual n back task
and research that has been done on that brain fitness tool.

It turns out folks that we can actually increase our IQ if
we want to now, simply by doing a computer program.

It is not as long as the Posit Science Program, and works a
little different slice of the aging wellness brain fitness
pie, but is just as effective.

Now that we have some cognitive and phsiological tools in
place, I think it is time to begin attending to the process
of conscious aging, which we will talk about next article.


About the Author:

Michael S. Logan is a brain fitness expert, counselor, a
student of Chi Gong, and a licensed one on one HeartMath
provider. I enjoy the spiritual, the mythological, and
psychological, and I am a late life father to Shane, 10,
and Hannah Marie, 4, whose brains are so amazing.
http://www.askmikethecounselor2.com